Top 10 Best Hypermodern Openings in Chess

This will apply for both black and white. This list was created by a hypermodern chess player himself and obviously a fanatic on chess. I wouldn't suggest any of these openings to the new new beginners until they begin to grasp and implement the opening principles when it comes to chess like occupying the center, developing pieces, and castling early. But occupying the center with pieces (for example fianchettoing bishops on long diagonals like in Nimzo Larsen or Owens defense) however instead with pawns is a very different case as it is too advanced for new new beginners who are just starting to learn the concepts behind chess like checkmating patterns and some few basic tactics like forks and skewers. So what I would suggest is to simply stick with some openings like Italian game or Scotch game or even a bit of Ruy Lopez despite being a very theoretical opening. Not only knowing a few openings obviously but rather knowing few checkmating patterns, tactics, and eventually practicing with various puzzles. Once you start to practice and get better, then you can deploy these hypermodern openings I have below when you feel comfortable at best or when you certainly know you're ready once you know and succeed with the theory behind it combined with tactics, precise positional play, and even imagination.
The Top Ten
1 Nimzo-Indian Defense

This is the greatest hypermodern opening of all, and it is absolutely my favorite hypermodern opening when it comes to deploying Indian defenses against d4. I adore Indian defenses as one of my favorite and most played openings.

The reason the Nimzo-Indian Defense is my favorite on this list is that whenever I have a chance to deploy it after white plays 3. Nc3, which is met with 3. Bb4, it gives me such pleasure pressuring my opponent and doubling their pawns right from the start. Not only is it splendid for positional chess in hypermodernism, but it is also flexible and fluid, like its successor, the Queen's Indian Defense.

Even though it results in losing a bishop while white retains the bishop pair, trading a bishop for a knight (especially in this opening) is worth it for undermining their center and gaining the upper hand. Both of these openings were created by the father of hypermodernism himself, Aron Nimzowitsch.

Though hypermodernism was harshly criticized back in its day, people have played this opening and other fun hypermodern openings through reform, including notable grandmasters like Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi (who hated each other's guts back then).

2 Larsen's Opening

Behold! The weapon of great unorthodoxy and surprise, famously created and deployed with usual success by Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen. This opening honors Nimzowitsch's legacy of hypermodern play, especially right out of the opening. Instead of playing Nf3 (Réti Opening) on the first move, Larsen fianchettoes his queenside bishop very early, often on the first or second move. It immediately pressures black's kingside.

This opening is pure in its own way because it honors Nimzowitsch's hypermodern strategies, just like its brother, the Hungarian Opening or Benko Opening. It's very much like the Nimzo-Larsen Attack, except the fianchettoed bishop is deployed on the kingside on g3 instead of b3.

I have used this a couple of times, and in all honesty, I have had better results with the Nimzo-Larsen Attack than with the Benko Opening. Though the Benko Opening seems manageable as it can transpose to some interesting variations and allows for quick castling and rapid development. An example would be the King's Indian Attack.

Even though the Nimzo-Larsen Attack has a great reputation for its offbeat nature, including Larsen's playing style itself, it has some cons to consider, like your queenside knight having trouble developing and slower kingside development.

Nonetheless, many great chess players from the past and present have used it with great success, including Fischer and Nakamura. Not only is it a great weapon of unorthodoxy and surprise that can easily shock your opponents, but it's also a great weapon in speed chess like bullet and blitz.

3 Queen's Indian Defense

Simply one of my favorite openings from the Indian game (1.d4 Nf6) because of its fluidity, flexibility, and smoothness for a hypermodern opening/Indian defense. Like all other Indian defenses/hypermodern openings, it lets the opponent have the space advantage, which serves the point of undermining the center. Despite that, it is said that it's quite difficult for black to gain an advantage from this opening.

Nonetheless, this opening has had some success over the years since Nimzowitsch introduced it. Aside from Nimzowitsch's own fianchetto variation, there are a couple of more variations named after former world champions, including Petrosian and Kasparov. The point of the Queen's Indian Defense is to fianchetto its queenside bishop to Bb7, so that it can not only pressure the knight and kingside from afar but also develop with great scope and diagonal across the board.

This opening is the main reason why I love fianchettoed bishops so much!

4 King's Indian Defense

Ah, a classic hypermodern opening that's iconic and recognizable. This is one of the best openings, honestly speaking from the heart. Sure, it has a lot of theory and it's complicated if you don't know parts of its theory. But its fame and recognition cannot be denied, with famous GMs and super GMs playing it as their main weapon with the black pieces against d4 in the lines of the Indian game.

Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov are among the most iconic players who have put it to great use. It's considered an aggressive opening for black despite not occupying much space, which is the whole point. It's obviously not for beginners. KID (King's Indian Defense) is considered a sharp opening, much like the Sicilian Dragon, as it can have double-edged play just like the Sicilian Dragon.

KID players usually blockade pawns to focus all their energy on attacking the kingside and checkmating their opponent, whereas the opponent will try to attack the queenside. I used this opening on occasion, and it feels nice having casual games with this opening.

5 Alekhine's Defense

This very risky opening is named after former world chess champion Alexander Alekhine, who played it in Budapest in 1921, scoring a win and a draw, and continued playing it during the 1920s. Despite its name, Alekhine did not create it. Rather, he popularized it, although there are several games displaying the deployment of this tricky opening a century before Alekhine's time.

Alekhine, in his time, was considered a tactical monster on the board, and his games are nothing but breathtaking brilliancies. Some of his games are even instructive and easy to understand when it comes to attacking.

This unorthodox opening choice from black of playing Nf6 against e4 is intriguing. It practically invites white to push e5 and gain tempo on the knight to a point where the knight will be attacked repeatedly. This is basically the whole point of this opening: to overextend white's pawns and control of the center, which black can later undermine.

This opening is clearly not for beginners because it breaks the most fundamental chess principle of not moving the same piece twice or more in the opening. Even though I used this opening quite frequently, as it was one of the few opening choices I knew when I started playing chess, I soon realized it was not a good opening for me because of the level of risk involved and its cons.

Nonetheless, with five months of experience, I deployed it on several occasions. It remains a favorite among my unorthodox opening repertoire.

6 Reti Opening

A very flexible hypermodern opening, the Reti involves simply putting the knight on Nf3. It is very useful for white when it comes to preparing openings that your opponent may not be prepared for. It is so flexible that it has multiple transpositions and variations that white can play, depending on what the opponent plays.

It can transpose into the English Opening or even my favorite, the King's Indian Attack. It can also lead to the Reti Gambit. It's that flexible! Named after Richard Reti, one of the leading pioneers of hypermodernism, he deployed it for the first time against legendary former world chess champion Jose Raul Capablanca in 1924, ending Capablanca's eight-year, 63-game winning streak. This game and 1. Nf3 are why the opening and the hypermodernism school became widely accepted.

Richard Reti later achieved a sparkling brilliancy against Efim Bogoljubov the following year. Now I understand why my best chess buddy loves to play this opening from a unique perspective.

7 King's Indian Attack

It is indeed a flexible opening, similar to the Reti Opening. It's an opening that makes white castle quickly and fianchetto his kingside bishop, which is the reverse of the King's Indian Defense. The KIA also refers to a plethora of systems for white involving pawns on d3, g3, and e4. Knights on d2 and f3. A kingside fianchetto. And kingside castling. This KIA setup can be used after 1. e4 against the Sicilian Defense, French Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, and many other popular openings for black. White often plays for a kingside attack, while black tries to win on the queenside.

Even though it's not a very theoretical opening, black has many viable options to respond, controlling the center while white does not put immediate pressure on black. The King's Indian Attack was first known to be played by Bonnerjee Mohishunder in his games with John Cochrane in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, in the 1850s. However, it did not become more widely popular until the 1920s. It wasn't until the 1960s that grandmasters like Pal Benko and Bobby Fischer deployed it with great success. The many variations that can arise for both black and white astonish me, as does the KIA system itself.

8 Bogo-Indian Defense

It has a notorious reputation for being a drawish opening. Like other Indian game systems, black castles quickly on the kingside and fights for the center indirectly with pieces instead of pawns, which is the essence of hypermodernism. Instead of opting for the Queen's Indian Defense (3. b6) where black is expected to do a queenside fianchetto, black goes for Bb4+.

Statistically speaking, it is a drawish opening because it produces more draws than wins. It is fairly simple to play and not very theoretical. It is strategic and sound, but it is not a very sharp opening because white gets the bishop pair while black often trades one of his bishops for a knight. This is why the Bogo-Indian Defense is not as sharp compared to the Nimzo-Indian Defense, which doubles white's pawns if white plays the crummy a3 move.

In terms of positional chess, it can be just a waste of time. I once experimented with this opening to construct my unorthodox opening repertoire a couple of months ago. It was fun for a while, but I did not have favorable results with it.

9 Grünfeld Defence

This opening, much like the King's Indian Defense, is highly popular and theoretical. Instead of 3...Bg7, black plays d5, which confronts white in the center. White typically controls the center initially, while black aims to dismantle white's strong central position later on. It is an active and unbalancing defense, making it a great choice for defensive and positional players alike.

The Grünfeld Defense is named after GM Ernst Grünfeld, a renowned opening theorist of his time. He began playing it in several games in 1922, including a win over Alexander Alekhine in Vienna. This win left enough of an impression on Alekhine that he tried it himself in the same tournament, only to lose in 26 moves.

While it performed poorly in the 1929 World Championship match between Alekhine and Euwe, this was primarily due to that particular event. Notably, Garry Kasparov is a long-time practitioner of this opening, as are other grandmasters to this day. It was even featured in Fischer's famous Game of the Century. I have personally used it a few times and achieved decent results. I focus on making solid developing moves in the opening to maximize the potential of the Grünfeld Defense.

10 Pirc Defense

The reason why I put this opening last is that it was deemed "too hypermodern" for me. I don't consider myself much of a hypermodern player, even though I play the Nimzo-Larsen Attack and the Benko Opening (Hungarian Opening) from time to time. It just seemed like too much theory for me, and I prefer controlling with the black pieces more than I do with the white pieces.

1.d6 is just a hypermodern way to respond to white's pawn to e4. It reminds me very much of the French Defense when black plays e6. Instead, black plays d6. Although this is not heavily based on theory, it can be quite problematic for black if they are not prepared for it. This may be another reason why I don't like the opening much and why it doesn't fit my style, as I don't know much theory about it.

However, after watching a chess talk YouTube video about the Pirc Defense, I was convinced of its power and now have big, excited plans to use this opening on important occasions soon. Though it seems like quite a passive opening, it has its purpose in undermining white's center. The most annoying thing I could imagine when playing this opening is hyper-aggressive opponents unleashing ferocious attacks. My plan is to play defensively and easily provoke white.

Not only aggressive players come to mind when countering the Pirc Defense, but positional players can also benefit from this opening by restricting white's gameplay. Though there are some considerable cons when playing this opening, it is very good for black as long as the player knows their theory and is prepared!

Most Pirc players usually play the main line of 3. g6 to fianchetto the kingside bishop, which will have a useful scope on its diagonal later on. For me, however, I am more interested in playing a more positional variation called the Czech Defense to restrict one of white's knights. I played this opening several times in online tournaments and had decent to mediocre results. But when playing against it with... more

The Contenders
11 Nimzowitsch Defence
12 Catalan Opening
13 Ware Defense
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